13 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 13

Previously:
Ah, Paris, where Ione can try to make sense of her new companions.
Ione woke up the next day in the middle of one of the king-sized beds.  The morning sun streamed in through the window.  With effort, Ione rolled over on to her back, trying to figure out where she was.  Realization set in.  Ione threw off her blankets and struggled to get to the edge of the bed.

"Good morning, Ione."  Jack waved from the couch.  "You slept well, I see."

"What time is it?"  Ione's voice was rough.

"Morning.  Otherwise, it does not matter.  What is time?"

Ione fell backwards on the bed.  "I don't need philosophy first thing after I wake up."  She glanced at Jack, a charcoal three-piece suit hanging smartly on his frame.  "Business meeting?"

"I don't know.  Do I have one today?"

Ione rolled out of bed.  She smoothed out her old t-shirt.  "I need coffee first."

Jack pointed at a silver urn on the low coffee table.  "Help yourself."

"Thanks."  Ione padded on her bare feet, enjoying the feel of the rug.  She poured herself a mug, taking a whiff of the brown liquid.  "This isn't the civet coffee, is it?"

"No, my dear."  Jack set down his newspaper.  "Decadent, isn't it?"

12 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 12

Ione set up a meet between Jack and her late contact's people, in The Devil You Know Chapter 12.

Jack is a busy person.  He has other projects on the go besides the work he's doing with Ione.  This is where Mara, who was only supposed to be his co-pilot, came in handy.  Jack can't be expected to do all the work himself.  Back when I was prepping The Devil You Know, I had some idea of who Jack is and what he does.  As the story was written, more of Jack's working style came out.  He is hands-on, but he is well aware of appearances.  Thus, well, Mara, plus all the other trappings he surrounds himself with.  Jack was fun to write, though.

Ione finally revealed why she uses her middle name.  Should be obvious, but the explanation provided many extra words towards NaNoWriMo's word count.  The goal here wasn't so much to tell why Ione uses her middle name as show how she felt about having to share a name.  Names are part of our core; changing one is a major deal.  Finding out that you have to share something so personal means shaking up one's own being, especially when young.  Ione's solution was to use her middle, a name that is rare in the wild.  In contrast, Jack doesn't worry about being lost in a crowd with his name.  Such is Jack.

I used a real location for the hotel in Paris.  Le Bristol exists and has an Imperial Suite, which could be viewed on the hotel's website.  It is that lush, just from the photos.  Again, the purpose for using real locations was two-fold.  The first was to give a sense of realness for when the oddities began.  If everything is weird, then the deliberate and needed oddness won't stand out.  Jack should be standing out right now - he's shady and enjoying the expensive things in life.  Creating a fictional hotel wouldn't have driven that home.  The other reason is that it was far easier to just use an existing location.  Unlike Unruly, where I'm involving schools and want to make sure that there's no impact on minors, The Devil You Know features adults going to a luxury hotel.  The risk for the hotel is far less than it is for high school students in Oshawa; Le Bristol is not a hive of scum and villainy unlike The Academy for Unruly Girls.

Glenn Frey's "Smuggler's Blues", from the album The Allnighter, turns out to be a very useful song for me.  I've referred to it for gaming, particularly for espionage RPGs and Shadowrun.  While I don't associate the song with cyberpunk of any flavour, it captures the criminal element.  I wasn't alone; an episode of Miami Vice was based on "Smuggler's Blues" and guest starred Frey as a smuggling pilot.  And, yes, Ione was a mere baby when the song came out.

Mara was fun to write.  I mentioned that last time and I'll mention it again.  She is Ms Fanservice, and there is a reason that will be revealed later.  For now, she's a contrast to Ione.  Where Ione has maintained a professional demeanor in her life, Mara gets away with being a hedonist.  Ione is a private person, in part because she can't really talk about work.  Mara doesn't really have a brain-to-mouth filter, though some of it is for effect.  However, Ione does need someone to confide in.  Karen is on the other side of the Atlantic.  Ione doesn't really like Mara, mostly from first impressions, but she needs to vent to someone and Jack doesn't have a sympathtic ear.  And, yes, Mara was not lying about her underwear status.

Friday, problems back home and meeting Pascal, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 13.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the expectations of nostalgia.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight.

11 Oct 2017

Happy Fifth!

Well, time flies.  It's been five years since I created this blog.  Wow.

I started the blog to see if I could maintain one.  I had no idea of what I was going to fill it with, either, though NaNoWriMo was coming up.  The challenge was to make regular updates.  Guess what?

I've been making regular updates.  I've created content.  I've posted fiction, starting way back with Subject 13 #1 and continued through until even now.  And if the fiction was work I'd already written, then I started commentary tracks, just to make sure I got something new done.  There's also the gaming material.  Which, yeah, crosses with the fiction because the two are related.  I got to play around with ideas and even if no one else is reading them, I know that I've done something.

Some fun stats.  This is the nth post since starting.  The most popular post, by count, is the first chapter of Digital Magic, of all things.  That supplanted the "Cars as Girls" post, so I suspect bots were looking for key words and phrases.  The fiction is gaining attention, though.

So, joyous fifth anniversary, all!

6 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 12

Previously:
Jack presented the problem to Ione using the Socratic method.
Jack's car turned out to be a black Mercedes-Benz, stretched to become a limousine.  Mara sat up in the driver's compartment, steering the behemoth out of the airport and on to the road into Paris proper.  Ione sat in the back with Jack, her eyes taking in the lush red interior and feeling well out of her league.  For his part, Jack sat back in his seat.  He turned on the small television built into the divider between the passenger and the driver.  Channel after channel, Jack flipped through the dial before turning the TV off again.  He grimaced.

"That's a first."  Ione turned to watch out her window.

"Just catching up with some outstanding work.  Nothing you need to be concerned about."  Jack leaned forward and tapped on the tinted window acting as a partial barrier to the front seat.  The window lowered.  "Mara, after you've dropped us off, please see Monsieur Laval.  He needs some encouragement."  Mara nodded, then raised the window.

"That's probably far more than I needed to know."

5 Oct 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 11

Welcome to Paris, bienvenue à Paris, in The Devil You Know Chapter 11.

Some information on how Ione found and tracked her contact, some character development for Jack and Mara, and a bit of fun, at least for the author.  At least the group is now in Paris, so the plot can get going again.

Ione's tracking of the Dunning-Kruggerand reflects the use of the cryptocurrency.  Money moves up the chain, from low-end dealers to high-end criminal enterprises, leading to Silk Road 2.0.  From there, it's just a matter of correlating when the cryptocurrency moved with known criminal deals to find out what was bought and sold.  The catch, though. is that over half of the Dunning-Kruggerand is in the hands of one organization, Mt. Gox, formerly the Magic the Gathering Online Exchange, thus well suited for tracking virtual widgets of dubious value.

Mara turned out to be fun to write.  I did almost no work on her, just figuring out her appearance and a general background, and that was because Jack's jet needed a co-pilot.  Mara made the most of her first appearance.  She then became useful to have, as will be seen next chapter.  However, Ione doesn't seem to like Mara.  The main reason is that Ione worked /hard/ to get where she is.  She had to show that she was as good as her male counterparts by putting in twice the work.  Mara, from Ione's point of view, is eye candy, getting her job because of her looks instead of ability.  First impressions, and Mara isn't helping her cause.  It's part of the reason Ione corrected herself after asking for a Coke.  She wanted the drink, not the powder.

The scene with French Customs was more to show Jack's influence on the people around him than for any other reason, other than exercising my meager French skills.  Most of the dialogue was my own work, with just quick checks to make sure I used the right gender of preposition.  Some translations if you didn't understand what was happening, though not word for word:
"Monsieur Renaud.  Et Monsieur Favre.  Trés enchanté.  Vous vous souvenez Madelle Mara, oui?" -> "Mister Renard.  And Mister Favre.  So delighted.  You remember Ms Mara, yes?"
"Et qui est elle?  Un autre des votres filles, Monsieur Jacques?" -> "And who is this?  Another of your girls, Mister Jacques?"
"Oh, non, non, non, Monsieur Favre.  Elle ne travaille pas pour moi.  Mais, j'ai besoin d'aide et elle est la personne idéalle." -> "Oh, no, no, no, Mister Favre.  She doesn't work for me.  But, I need help and she is the ideal person."
"Je viens d'Ottawa.  Mon employe est dans le gouvrement du Canada." -> "I come from Ottawa.  My job is in the Government of Canada."
"Avez vous de contrebande dans votres velises?" -> "Do you have any contraband in your luggage?"
"Non, Monsieur.  Vour pourrez regarder si vous voulez." -> "No, sir.  You can look if you want."
"Et vous, Monsieur/ Jacques?  Avez vous de contrebande?" -> "And you, Mister Jacques?  Do you have any contraband?"
"Moi?  Non, Monsieur.  Jamais." -> "Me?  No, sir.  Never."
If it seems like Jack is getting off lightly here, he is.  It's not for a lack of researching procedures at Customs, either.  This is deliberate.  Jack knows Renaud and Favre.  And they know Jack.  Earlier in the chapter, Jack mentioned that he analyzes people.  He has analyzed Renaud and Favre in the past.  And note the vousvoyer; everyone is using the formal vous instead of the familiar tu.

Friday, correcting Jack and arranging meets, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 12.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, expanded universes.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, balancing nostalgia and adaptations.

29 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 11

Previously:
Ione slipped a tail as she went out to get on Jack's private jet.
With breakfast out of the way, Ione settled in for the flight.  She brought out her laptop and started going through the files she collected and built tracing Babbage.  The money trail was easy; she had made notes as her virtual coins travelled through transaction after transaction.  Each time, the electronic currency was used in a shady deal.  Drugs at first, low amounts of a variety that Ione figured were meant for street deals, but as the currency moved up the chain, the purchases changed from drugs to guns, then from guns to rockets.  This is where Babbage came in.  Ione wasn't sure of his real name, nor did she want to know.  His purchases, though, were enough for her to flag him for Lawrence before tracing his emails and instant messaging.  If she wanted, she could easily have followed him through social media.

A squeal from the cockpit pulled Ione's attention away from her work.  Mara's high-pitched giggle penetrated through the cockpit door.  "At least they closed the door," Ione muttered.  She tried to ignore the noises coming from the front of the jet, but couldn't focus on her files.  Ione set down her laptop, closing its lid, and picked up her tablet.  If she couldn't concentrate, one of the games on the tablet should distract her.

28 Sep 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 10

Ione's stalker returned, but couldn't keep up as she left for Paris, in The Devil You Know Chapter 10.

Ione's stalker appears yet again and still unseen.  The stalker has a new car after a mysterious engine problem in Chapter 8.  Following a bus is difficult.  It's not that the bus is faster; it isn't.  The bus makes stops and it starts getting obvious that there's a tail when the car doesn't take the opportunity to pass.  Downtown Ione has the advantage.  Ottawa is a mess of one-way streets that even local drivers can't handle.  Where she got off the bus, she has a block to get to the stop she wants while her stalker has to find a north-bound street that will allow for a left turn to go back.  The main north-south road, Bank, doesn't allow left turns during rush because of the heavy traffic.  The westbound trip means that the stalker can't follow.  Even with today's LRT construction, the bus eventually hits the bus-only Transitway, and there isn't a road that runs parallel.  Even the station at the Bayshore mall is away from the road and parking.  Ione used local transit to give her stalker the slip.

I'm taking some liberties with the capabilities of the Carp Airport.  It's not a big airport, meant more for private planes than heavy commercial traffic.  A jet may be pushing the runway's capacity.  Yet, somehow Jack managed to land one there.  That alone should have people wondering.  If it isn't, I must have either hooked the reader or lost the reader.  The reader can decide.  However, I did give a nod to reality during take-off.  Jack really doesn't listen to people in authority.

Mara makes her first appearance.  She wasn't a planned character at all.  I needed her because Jack's jet needs a co-pilot.  But once she was there, she became useful and brought along her own backstory and story arc.  Mara was also fun to write.  She's not just an extension of Jack, though that was the original reason for her inclusion.  Mara joins Ben in the roster of characters who didn't remain in their original scenes.

The references to 10am all come from the MST3K episode featuring Danger! Death Ray.  The hero of the movie, Bart Fargo, at one point helps himself to his hotel room's bar, and damn the excessive cost to the room.  The riff of the moment is, "It's 10am somewhere," implying that Bart may have a drinking problem.  The audience will if they drank every time the main music played.  The line stuck in my head for some reason, so it'll get tossed in every now and then when appropriate.

Kopi luwak is a real coffee.  The beans pass through the digestive system of the civet cat before being collected.  The "wild sourced" means that someone had to go looking for the beans.  I'm sure it's a delicacy and the processing removes any, um, residue from the civet, but I'll pass, thanks.  Why does Jack have the coffee?  He's a man of wealth and taste, and he knows people who do drink that coffee.

Friday, Jack shows some of his cards, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 11.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus due to circumstances.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, expanded universes.

* There are exception, including Deadpool and Pinkie Pie.  Most people in their works consider them off and slighty mad.